Bidders Await Congress' Cue On FBI Effort

Bidders Await Congress' Cue On FBI Effort

Janet Reno

By Nick Wakeman Staff Writer

A congressional review set for completion this week should decide the scope of a $430 million contract the FBI wants to award for a system to promote sharing of information on criminal investigations and counterintelligence efforts.

The Information Sharing Initiative project, known as ISI, has been stalled for several months, mostly because of concerns in Congress over the Federal Bureau of Investigation's implementation plan and its past problems with large-scale information technology projects.

Three systems integrators that bid on the project as primes and have big bucks riding on the outcome of the latest review are Lockheed Martin Corp. of Bethesda, Md., Raytheon Co. of Lexington, Mass., and Science Applications International Corp. of San Diego.

While Congress has appropriated about $20 million in fiscal year 2000 funds for the start of the project, the House and Senate appropriations committees asked the FBI to submit a new implementation plan by Sept. 1.

House and Senate lawmakers returning from their congressional recess Sept. 7 were expected to review the bureau's plan and then release the funds.

"We expect to see the committees do something by Sept. 15," an industry source said.

The FBI's original plan was for a five-year contract to build a system that will allow FBI agents, field offices and headquarters to share information electronically about criminal investigations and counterintelligence operations.

This project also would cover the development of analytical tools to help the FBI and the Justice Department track criminal activities and spot trends.

The final request for proposals was released in October 1998, with final bids submitted in December. An award date has been pushed back several times as the FBI has wrangled with Congress.

FBI officials declined to comment on the project, as did staff on the appropriations committees.

But both Attorney General Janet Reno and FBI Director Louis Freeh plugged the ISI project during congressional testimony this spring.

Implementation of ISI "is critical to ensure that the millions of pages of documents the FBI handles worldwide can be shared among appropriate field offices and headquarters divisions," Reno said before the House and Senate appropriations committees in the spring.

Once implemented, she said, "the FBI will be able to tie its intelligence information and case documentation together in order for the appropriate analytical work to be accomplished."

The bureau's IT reputation got a recent boost with the successful rollout this year of the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System, one industry official said. Although over its $100 million budget, the Lockheed Martin project is "working and doing well," the source said.

While there is a remote possibility that lawmakers could decide to cancel the ISI project outright, such a move is deemed unlikely, industry officials said.

One scenario outlined by an industry source would have the FBI pick the lowest bidder on the project. That contractor would then act as program manager and develop task orders and statements of work that would be bid through the Justice Department's Information Technology Support Services II contract.

The indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity ITSS contract was won by 13 companies in 1998 to provide a broad range of IT services to the Department of Justice. The ISI contractor would manage those task orders to build the system. This could be a less expensive approach, the source said.

But Mitch Lee, vice president and general manager of Raytheon Data Systems in St. Petersburg, Fla., said he thinks the project will go forward as originally intended by the FBI.

"I believe the FBI will satisfy the committees and they will release the funds," said Lee, who is heading up the Raytheon team seeking the contract. "Congress is doing its job and being diligent."

To pursue the project, Raytheon fielded a team that includes Complete Business Solutions Inc. of Framington Hills, Mich., Federal Data Corp. of Bethesda, Md., and Lucent Technologies Inc. of Murray Hill, N.J.

Lockheed Martin's team, sources said, includes CACI International Inc. of Arlington, Va., Logicon Inc. of Herndon, Va., and Unisys Corp. of Blue Bell, Pa.

Information on SAIC's team was not available. Neither Lockheed Martin nor SAIC officials would comment on their strategies for pursuing the contract.

The move toward the ISI system grew out of the FBI's realization that it was collecting vast amounts of data but had no way to effectively share or analyze it, said Lee.

Using commercially available products is a key component of the project. They are less expensive and easier to upgrade than building proprietary systems, Lee said.

Telecommunications capabilities also are important, because the system will link hundreds of FBI offices with secure e-mail, file sharing and videoteleconferencing, said Lee, whose team is leveraging its extensive large-scale systems integration experience with the Air Force, Army and Navy to pursue the FBI contract.

The RFP indicates the bureau planned the project around three parts:

  • Creation of a distributed document and image management system;
  • Development of the requisite analytical capabilities and intelligence processing;

  • Multilevel security and sharing of information with law enforcement agencies outside the FBI, such as other federal agencies and state and local police.

Also, the winning contractor will be responsible for upgrading computers and migrating mainframe computers to new systems.

"The biggest challenge to all this is having a low-risk way to roll all of this out," Lee said.

The best approach is to start with a pilot for a few new capabilities in a few locations, and then build a step at a time from there.

"It is the phased-in approach," Lee said.

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